Do you have a closet full of clothes, but find that you don’t wear many (maybe even most) of them? Wondering what it would feel like to remove the clutter from your closet and narrow down the clothing items to just the clothes you really love? Curious how you can find keep only the clothes that work for you with a thorough closet cleanout process?
In this blog post, I’m sharing my proven strategy for decluttering your closet to hone in on the items that you wear, that fit you, and that you really love. Using this strategy, you can reduce the number of clothing pieces in your closet in half, and ensure you’re left with the pieces that will make getting dressed each day much easier, possibly even effortless.
By focusing on many small decisions, your closet reduction will go so smoothly, you’ll be surprised and impressed. And with only the best of your clothes in our closet (the clothes you really love ❤️), you’ll set yourself up to get dressed faster each morning because you’ll have fewer decisions and fewer items getting in your way. It’s the proverbial “forest through the trees” where the clothes you love will shine when they’re not dwarfed by all the other “not so fine” things in your wardrobe.
Four steps to reduce your clothing items by half
To set the stage, here are the four steps you’ll use to cut the items of clothing your closet in half, leaving only the clothes you really love.
- Group all your clothing items by category
- Complete Yes/No/Maybe process for the first category
- Reassess the Maybe stack
- Repeat Yes/No/Maybe process for remaining categories
Step 1: Group all your clothing items by category
The first step is easy; you just need to take all your clothing items and sort them into categories. Take all similar items and group them together so you can see them. You can do this by putting similar items together on hangers in your closet and stacks of clothes on your bed. You will need to clean out items from wherever you store them, including dresser drawers, underbed storage, maybe even an extra closet you use for overflow.
Here’s a list of recommended categories to get you started. While you’re categorizing, feel free to use categories that work for you, based upon your own wardrobe. If you need to add a category (maybe you have a ton of hoodies), go ahead and add it.
- Tank Tops
- Short-sleeve Tops
- Long-sleeve Tops
I find that this process works best with categories that contain about 20 or so items. It’s enough to give you some thoughtful choices on what goes and what stays but not so many decisions that it gets overwhelming.
Tip – Break a category into two smaller categories if you have 30 or more items in that category. For example, if you have 30 pairs of leggings, you could break them into a category for casual leggings and a category for activewear leggings.
Step 2: Complete Yes/No/Maybe process for first category
The second step is the magic step. I call it the Yes/No/Maybe Step, and you’ll complete this step for each individual clothing category that you created in step 1.
Let’s start with that stack of leggings.
First, count the number of leggings that are in the stack. When you finish Step 2, you will have half the leggings that you have right now. So if you start with 20 pairs of leggings, expect to have 10 after Step 2.
Once you’ve counted how many pairs of leggings you have, the next step is the Yes/No/Maybe evaluation. For the first pair of leggings on the top of the stack, determine if it goes in a Yes, No or Maybe pile. Continue doing this for each pair of leggings, moving each of them to one of three piles.
For each pair of leggings, ask yourself these questions:
- Do these fit me well?
- Do these look good on my body?
- Do I feel great when I wear these?
- Do I have other items in my closest that match these to make an outfit?
- Do I love these?
- Are these still in good condition?
By answering these questions, you can determine if a pair of leggings go in the Yes, No or Maybe pile. Keep working through your pile of leggings until each is in a pile.
But wait! I forgot to tell you one of the Yes/No/Maybe step important rules.
Each of the three Yes, No or Maybe piles can only have 1/3 of the leggings in that pile. So, if you started with 20 pairs of leggings, each stack can only have six pair of leggings. Since 20 isn’t cleanly divisible by 3, you can put one pair of each of the extra leggings into the Maybe and No piles.
Before moving on to Step 3, you can two additional things to do. First, take all the items in the Yes pile and put them back in your closet, or set them aside to put them back in your closet when you complete the entire closet cleanout exercise. These six leggings are the first items to return to your closet as the clothes you love (and that love you back).
Now take everything in the No pile and set them aside to donate to a local charity or to sell at a garage sale. You’ve already removed 1/3 of your leggings from your closet, but you’re not quite done with the leggings yet.
Step 3: Reassess the Maybe stack
So now you’re wondering what to do with the seven items in the Maybe pile, right? I thought you’ve never ask.
With those seven items, repeat the process in Step 2 with only the seven items in the Maybe pile. First, count them (and well, you have seven pairs of leggings, no big surprise there).
Distribute those seven leggings into new Yes/No/Maybe piles, and again you must have only 1/3 of the items in each pile. In this case, pick two leggings for the Yes pile, two leggings for the No pile and three leggings for the Maybe pile.
The items in the Yes pile go with the existing Yes items, and the new items in the No pile go with the existing No pile.
Then, complete the Yes/No/Maybe process one final time, meaning you determine the fate of the three pair of leggings in the Maybe pile. This time, since you’ll have just one item in each of the Yes, No and Maybe piles, just make a final call on the pair that would go into the Maybe pile on if it’s a Yes or a No. Then distribute the latest Yes and No piles into their respective larger lots.
Congratulations – you’ve completed getting rid of half of the leggings in your wardrobe. And you are well on your way to reducing the items in your closet by half, keeping only the clothes you truly love (and fit you and your lifestyle).
Step 4: Repeat Yes/No/Maybe process for remaining categories
Now that you’ve finished one clothing category, your next step (or steps) is to repeat this same process for each of the other categories in any order that you wish. Just work through them one by one, I recommend that you stop occasionally and pack up the items in the No area so you aren’t tempted to pull an item or two (or 20) from the No pile.
Go ahead, tackle the pants next, then the tops, then the dresses (you get the idea). It might take you a while to get through all the categories, but just keep going. Remember, when you’re finished with the closet cleanout process, you’re left with only the clothes you love and that fit you and your lifestyle.
4 tips to help with your closet cleanout process
As you follow my approach for closet cleaning, here are a few tips to help you get through the closet cleanout process with ease.
- If you feel overwhelmed with the size of a category, separate it into smaller categories that you can work with individually. For example, if you have a large group of tops, break them into tops in neutral colors and tops in non-neutral colors, then assess each group with the Yes/No/Maybe process.
- Or, conversely, if a small category means you really love everything in that category and can’t put anything into the No stack, try merging that small category with another related category. Having some additional items in the category may make it easier to find the items you’re ready to part with.
- Don’t limit this process to just clothing. Make a category for your jewelry also, and another for your scarves or other accessories. You also can make categories for types of shoes and boots (be still my heart, don’t take away my shoes!). I have even used this system for other areas of my life, like
- If you’ve created a standardized color palette for your wardrobe, use that as a guide to help you weed out your closet. Items that aren’t in your color palette are easy targets for the No stack.
Now that your closet is looking its best, you may start to feel like you need a few new pieces to fill a gap or two. Before you do that, I invite you to check out my “Formula for Dressing Effortlessly” ebook, where I help you define a purpose for every piece in your closet and ensures that each clothing item can be worn with many other items easily and well, effortlessly. Oh, and this ebook is free.
Video showing how to keep only the clothes you really love using my best closet cleanout process
Prefer to watch a video? Here’s a related YouTube video about my closet cleanout strategy that will help you keep only the clothes you really love.
Not ready to spend quite this much time on a closet cleanout process, check out these related posts for other ways to narrow down your wardrobe: